2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire First Ride Review

There was one crucial element missing at the launch of the 2020 Harley-Davidson LiveWire: the brain-rattling thump of V-twin engines. Virtually every other test ride in the brand’s 116-year history has been punctuated by the rumble of fuel-burning powerplants, but this time our two-wheeled armada glided through the city in near silence using nothing but electrons.

2020 Harley-Davidson

Electric motorcycles have been produced for years by startups like Alta Motors, Brammo, Energica, and Zero, to name a few. But the battery-powered LiveWire marks a dramatic departure from Harley-Davidson’s century-old formula of converting dead fossil fuels into relatively high amounts of sound (and little performance fury). How did the folks in Milwaukee tackle the growing EV market?

First, some vital stats. The LiveWire’s permanent magnet motor produces 105 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque from a 15.5 kWh lithium-ion battery, good for 0-60 mph in 3 seconds flat. Combined range is 98 miles according to the World Motorcycle Test standards; city range, based on the MIC scale, is 146 miles. Harley also claims that constant cruising at 70 mph can get you 70 miles before a recharge.

But the charging setup is, simply put, a paradox. The good news first: the LiveWire’s onboard DC fast-charging system can deliver 80% charge in 40 minutes, and a full charge in an hour, using a compatible DC fast-charging station. But if you’re not near a fast-charger, the onboard AC charger can only provide Level 1 charging. A full charge will take an excruciating 12.5 hours.

My brief jaunt through downtown Portland later in the day revealed user-friendly riding characteristics.

After a half-day of riding, Harley’s claimed mileage estimates appear to be spot-on based on my real-world experience. I started with a full charge, and after around 65 miles riding the trip computer indicated 41 miles remaining, despite aggressive riding and, yes, a burnout or two.

But there are also two glaring shortcomings with Harley’s first EV: the lack of Level 2 charging, and the considerable starting price of $29,799.

If you play the numbers game – and many EV buyers do – the LiveWire won’t make a whole lot of rational sense – its lack of Level 2 charging is a significant should give potential buyers pause, certainly. But don’t discount the value of the Harley-Davidson brand or the solidity and thoughtful detailing of the LiveWire, all of which come at a price that’s also typical of Harleys. More than anything, it’s an exceptionally well-executed motorcycle and an otherwise outstanding way to bring two-wheeled EVs into the mainstream.

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